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Dedicated to the One I Love

Sunday After Ascension

12 May 2024

 




Dedicated to the one I love. If you are of the 1960’s, or 70’s, vintage you will know that it is the title of a song written by Ralph Bass and Lowman Pauling in the 1950’s[1], but made famous by the version recorded by the Mama’s and the Papa’s.  While not the first, theirs is the yardstick by which all others are measured. Whatever you can say about the lives of the band members (and there is plenty to say), the recording is superb.  

However, it is nothing compared to the version that Jesus recorded.  For that is exactly what today’s Gospel is: a love song/prayer dedicated to the ones he loves.  It is dedicated to you. This prayer, as lyrical as a song, is all about love and remembering the hour just before dawn, when things are the darkest.

Jesus utters this prayer for his disciples just before he goes to the garden.  He is praying for his followers, all the while knowing he is soon to be betrayed and to die for them. This is John’s version of the Lord’s Prayer, but rather than showing his followers how to pray to the Father, he is praying to the Father on their behalf.  The next two verses help us to understand just what he is doing on our behalf.  “My prayers are not only for them, but for all who will trust in me through their message. I pray that all who walk with me will be joined together as one, in the same way that you, father, are in me and I am in you - that they may be one in us. This is how the world will believe that you have sent me.”

Jesus prays for all of us, for our protection. Not protection from illness or poverty, but protection so that they, and we, may learn to love one another.  Love is at the heart of the matter.  Jesus is praying for protection from the “world”, which is in his reality the Roman empire and in ours nations and corporations that seek to control and destroy and become either out god or our enemy. He prays that we do not succumb to the lure of the “world.”

He prays that we are sanctified, made holy, and walk in the world as he did.  We are to be in the world, but not of the world. This does not mean detaching ourselves from the physical, or treating the material world as something we can use and abuse, but like St. Francis and St. Clare: to love everything that is in the natural world, for that is of the Father and from the Father. We are to walk, as much as is humanly possible, as Jesus walked. This is sharing in the joy, not the happiness but the joy, that Jesus has and which is open to all of us.

He prays that we realize we are set apart but that we must be sent.  As the heavenly being says in Acts, “Why are you looking up?”.  We are to live and move and have our being with God, but in the world.  We are not to live in isolation, but, to use the Biblical metaphor, bear fruit.

Jesus was a real human being, one who felt everything that you and I did.  He was an exceptional human being, and as a human being comparable to few others.  But our faith tells us he was, and is, God incarnate, and he loved us as only God can. In the world in which the human Jesus dwelt, the idea that God loves us and wants a relationship with us was an oxymoron.  God, or the gods, could be all sorts of things, but a loving parent who wants a relationship…, well let’s just say holding that idea would not win you any awards.

Jesus’ prayer today becomes even more personal and, I hope, fills you with awe and joy.  God will protect you, not from the dangers inherent in the physical world and not even from evil perpetrated by others, but from the loss of love and joy.

I often think our brothers and sisters living in places like Nzara or Eswatini understand this better than we do.  No less than us they long for food security and physical security and freedom, but in spite of poverty, injustice, natural disasters, and political conflict, they thrive.  They get it.  They understand this prayer and they know that nothing, nothing anywhere, can separate them from the love and care of God.  And knowing that, they are able to practice that love and live in the promise of this prayer. In the First Nations Version of the New Testament, the prayer draws to a close with these words: “O Great Father, I want the ones you have given me to share this place of beauty that I have with you, so they can see the power of your love for me, a love that we shared before you created all things. O Father of all that is good and right, the world does not know you but I know you, and my followers know you sent me. I have represented and will always represent who you truly are so that the love you have for me will be in them and I will live in them also.”[2]


[1] It was recorded by the 5 Royales and the Shirelles earlier.

[2] First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament, p 202

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